Santa Elena Travel Blog› entry 31 of 34 › view all entries
The dreaded border crossing into the notoriously dangerous Venezuela ended up being a cake walk. POME Rob and I got a 14 hr night bus straight from Manaus to Santa Elena with no issues. To my surprise and relief the border crossing was very clean, modern, fast, and stress free. We did not have to get any tourist card at a Brazilian embassy as was mentioned in the lonely planet. They did it all in a couple minutes at the border.
The bright green rolling hill upon crossing the border were fantastic. We were met by the over the top enthusiastic Francisco at the bus terminal who meets all tourists on their way in from Brazil to try to set up tours to the Angel Falls and Roraima.
First on the list after dropping the gear in the clean $5 hostel was exchanging the Reals and USD that we had accumulated as directed by every backpacker we met who had been to Venezuela. I still do not understand all of the reasons but the wealthy people are willing to pay a premium for foreign currency to protect themselves from local inflation due to such things as the upcoming revaluing of the Bolivar as well as the unrest that could develop due to the famous vote occurring on December 2nd. Regardless of the reasons we were happy to get about 5300 Bolivars per USD compared to the bank rate of about 2100.
Santa Elena is small and word moves quickly. We were approached by two other backpackers who were leaving to Roraima the following day because they heard that some new people arrived and they wanted us to come along to reduce the cost of the tour per head. Mystic tours was the only agency that was leaving the next day, the price ($160 USD for 6 days) was right, so we tagged along. The prep talk by the well published and well overweight Roberto was... odd. His agency is called Mystic tours because he believes that Roraima is the center of all ancient buildings across the globe and this has made it a popular spot for UFOs to show themselves and even take people aboard.
The trek was fantastic. We did it in 5 days rather than 6 because some people in our group needed to catch a flight. This ended up being for the best because were were all fairly fit and 3 days to get up would have been boring. The first day consisted of the transportation to the small village at the start of the hike, waiting several hours to find porters because most have moved away to build houses for Chavez´s socialist programs, and finally walking about 4 hours through the rolling green savanna to the ever enlarging flap top mountain that is one of the oldest on the planet.
Day 2 was one of the best days of hiking that I have ever done. The eight hour trek from the base camp to the top of the world went through very diverse and technical terrain. The grassy savanna blended into steeper rock covered hills. The base of the mountain was covered in forest to so different than the Amazon. There were very steep section in here requiring all four limbs to ascend the deep cut steps cut into the red and yellow clays from years of trekkers tracks.
We quickly found out how fast the weather changes on the top of a flat top mountain during on day exploring the strange rock formations. We awoke to sunshine but an hour into our exploration the clouds rolled over the the sides of our giant table and the rain began to fall. In some ways this made the experience more mystical (no UFOs included).
The two day trek back to the starting point follows the same trail. It was nice to have more time to enjoy the two rivers that we had to cross each way. The last night we were able to get our hands on a couple dozen beers from porters from a different tour company. I introduced the group to asshole and I am sure that they will all bring this game home to their respective corners of the globe.